CANTON Little River Community School is planning to get a little bit bigger.
At a time when most area public schools are seeing enrollment declines, the three-room alternative school has a waiting list of students and plans to build a two-story, 720-square-foot addition.
Established in 1999, the school started off with four students which grew to 12 students by the end of the first school year.
Since then, enrollment has grown to 33 students in grades kindergarten through 12.
Little River Director Steven A. Molnar said about 20 other families have inquired about sending their children, but he doesnt have enough space to accommodate the interest.
I think we have a lot of happy families, Mr. Molnar said. Wed like to get a little bigger, but not so big that we lose the individualized nature of our school.
Perched on a hilltop at 127 County Route 25, Little River is adjacent to Birdsfoot Farm, where Mr. Molnar resides with his family.
A fundraising campaign is under way to raise $98,000 needed for the building expansion. So far, about $30,000 has been collected and 300 letters have been mailed out asking for contributions.
Mr. Molnar is also seeking funding through grants and foundations.
Weve got quite a ways to go, he said. We have to be financially responsible and have the vast majority of the funding on hand before we begin.
The expansion would provide room for about six more students and one more full-time teacher. There are now three full-time teachers and three part-time.
The proposed project includes a community room that could be used for student performances, one new classroom and two smaller rooms. Architect Brooks A. Washburn, Potsdam, has designed the plans.
Despite its growing size, Mr. Molnar said Little River has maintained its core philosophy of allowing students to have a great deal of input regarding their own learning. Teachers emphasize cooperation and problem-solving through open discussions. Hands-on experiences and field trips are major components of the school year.
Our passion is to empower students. We have a fundamental trust in children and their inherent motivation to learn about their world, Mr. Molnar said.
Miguel L. Hernandez, 15, transferred from Canton Central School after spending a day visiting Little River.
I felt right at home here, he said. We get plenty of homework, but its work were happy to do because we like what were doing.
Nora L. Bradford, 15, Potsdam, said Little River feels like a family.
I really like all the people here and how we get along. There isnt a lot of drama, she said.